Pastoral Letter

8699828939_8a53b785ab_bBy Laurel Dykstra

in those days before the flood
they were eating and drinking,
marrying and giving in marriage

My scarred and raging
weary-eyed beloveds

ordinary defiant
with your teaching-outfit selfies
purple hair
fancy waistcoats
songs in a new range
carpentry projects
surfboards
magic card tricks
raspberry canes

You are magnificent Continue reading

The Only Version of Heaven my God Has Given Me

DungyAn excerpt from The Sun Magazine‘s 2018 interview with poet and professor Camille Dungy.

I am a Christian who is sad that it is often difficult for me to say that I am a Christian. I believe in what I understand to be the fundamental teachings of Jesus Christ: Love one another, and do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Justice and care and dangerous, radical kindness — I believe in all that. But I don’t believe that there is just one “right” Church. And I don’t believe in waiting to go to heaven to get my due…I’m going to fight for my due here and now, and for my daughter’s due. This is the only version of heaven that my God has given me, so this is where I am going to do my work. Continue reading

Mothering Behind Bars: A Conversation with Siwatu-Salama Ra

Mothering_Behind_Bars_800_250_90

Siwatu-Salama Ra and family, freesiwatu.org.

Re-share from Geez magazine.

Siwatu-Salama Ra is an environmental justice activist in Detroit, Michigan. Two years ago, she was arrested for pulling out a gun when someone violently threatened her two-year-old daughter. She was a licensed gun owner and never fired a shot. She was found guilty of felony firearm and given a two-year mandatory minimum sentence. She gave birth to her son while in prison. After serving eight months, she has been released on bond as she awaits her appeal. Her case raises many questions about self-defense, racial disparities in the justice system, and the treatment of incarcerated women. Her story also highlights the power of organizing and community. Lydia Wylie-Kellermann interviewed Siwatu while she was out on bond awaiting her appeal.

Geez: Could you start by introducing yourself and saying a little bit about who you are and what you do?

Siwatu-Salama Ra: My name is Siwatu-Salama Ra. I’m a daughter of a long-time community organizer and activist, Rhonda Anderson. I was raised by a single mother who raised all four of her children and grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren. I followed a lot of what my mom did, and I started environmental justice work at about 14.

Recently, people have given me another title – a difficult title – of being a political prisoner. I was released from prison almost five months ago. I came home to a baby who was turning six-months-old, who I had given birth to in prison. And a three-year-old who is close to being four now. I left when she was two. Continue reading

Why is This the Only Issue?

RallyAn excerpt from The Atlantic‘s interview with Rev. Jen Kast, a UCC pastor who grew up in hyper-Evangelical Western Michigan.

I began to understand myself as a woman in ministry. I began to see myself as this Christian feminist. I began to own my voice differently, and to question the rules of engagement of Christianity that I was raised with.

I began saying things like, “Why is it that abortion is the only issue that my parents and family really care about?” I have a very good relationship with my family. I’m not trying to paint them in negative light. But why? Why is this the only issue?

Like many Millennials coming out of evangelicalism, I began to care about different justice issues. I began to care about the Earth, and racial justice, and interfaith justice. And one of the topics that arose for me was abortion.

I began questioning: What about bodily autonomy? Isn’t that justice? How would God ever infringe upon that?

And this was a big one for me: Why is it that when it comes to this topic, it’s almost always white, straight, Christian men who are the loudest?

Jesus’ Ministerial Vision

SistersA Holy Week rebound from Sisters in the Wilderness: The Challenge of Womanist God-Talk (1993) by Dolores Williams.

The image of Jesus on the cross is the image of human sin in its most desecrated form. This execution destroyed the body, by publicly exposing his nakedness and private parts, by mocking his ministerial vision as they labeled him king of the Jews, by placing a crown of thorns upon his head mocking his dignity and the integrity of his divine mission. The cross thus becomes an image of defilement, a gross manifestation of collective human sin. Rather, Jesus conquers the sin of temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11) by resistance–by resisting the temptation to value the material over the spiritual; by resisting death; by resisting the greedy urge of monopolistic ownership. Jesus therefore conquered sin in life, not in death. In the wilderness he refused to allow evil forces to defile the balanced relation between the material and the spiritual, between life and death, between power and the exertion of it. Continue reading

Resisting and Rising Above

SistersFrom Dolores Williams’ classic Sisters in the Wilderness: The Challenge of Womanist God-Talk (1993):

Faith has taught me to see the miraculous in everyday life: the miracle of ordinary black women resisting and rising above evil forces in society, where forces work to destroy and subvert the creative power and energy my mother and grandmother taught me God gave black women. Ordinary black women doing what they always do: holding the family and church together; working for the white folks or teaching school; enduring whatever they must so their children can reach for the stars; keeping hope alive in the family and community when money is scarce and white folks get mean and ugly.

What I’ll Tell You- To My Daughter (in the far future)

4253502775_f38a01d235_z

Photo by David Merz

By Sarah Brooks

This year they told us “12 good years”.
Will I bring you into this world with that written out before me?
Dwelling on that is new- I don’t have the answer yet.
Part of me mourns the time when the only thing between us were the years I needed,
And the other copes by listing out your name.

So, for now I’ll say,
if this world does end up powering you into existence, Continue reading